Arvida Bystrom & Finding Sexual Freedom in Social Media

Sunday is a gallery and live/work space in Virgil Village, Los Angeles, run by Adi Rajkovic and Teryn Brown, a place that could easily pass for a regular house in a regular neighborhood. Last week, however, those walls held an inspiring, well-curated collection of envelope-pushing artwork made by more than 40 female artists; comprising Sunday Gallery’s most current exhibition “Hot In Here.” Work by more established Internet artists like Arvida Bystrom, Molly Soda and Logan White, was placed next to paintings, videos, photographs and drawings made by many up and coming artists, all showcasing the daily lives of women; our needs, desires, wants, dislikes and the occasional fleeting moment captured by the perfect selfie.

Milk’s Alexandra Velasco talked with Adi, Teryn and Arvida Byström about the power of the Internet, art, beauty and the future of social media.

Why is the show entitled ‘Hot in Here?’

Sunday: I like song titles for shows and I think that this one fit best for our summer show, especially because we have a small space without AC and it tends to get very hot. It’s also hot because its a room full of ladies (laughs).

How did you curate the show? How did you choose the artists? There seems to be a combination between more established artists and ones that are more up and coming.

Sunday: Some of the artists I knew through Instagram, and some of the artists I know from going to CalArts or through my friend Teryn Brown who helps me run the space. I pretty much asked every artist that I was into and was pleasantly surprised at how many responses I got.

I believe the show deals a lot with the power of the Internet and how it affects our self –awareness, am I going the right route here?

Sunday: I cant speak for everyone who contributed art to the show, but to me, the internet has made the world seem much smaller, and more accessible. My generation grew up on the internet and I think that has been advantageous for us because we’ve grown up being able to access information and images and interact with people from all over the world. It’s made us more self-aware in terms of our place as individuals on planet Earth.

In general terms, do we think of our Internet persona as the ideal person we would like to be?

Sunday: I think the internet can be a bit deceiving at times. It’s hard to put yourself out there all the time or to look good or say the right thing all the time or whatever. Maybe not the ideal person you want to be, but you get to pick and choose all the parts you like best or just the parts you want to present. And for the most part that’s just through photos or small paragraphs, so people project whatever they want onto you anyways. Kind of like in real life, but you don’t always get a chance to correct them.

Arvida: To me it is not necessarily more “perfect” than my offline life. I like flaws…I have no intentions trying to be perfect in my whole life and don’t think anyone can be. But if you see the internet and how some artists perform on there as an art work, you would never ask a painter if they put their whole life in to their painting, because often they don’t. It is a painting, and painting has its limitations in not being able to show a life story. I think people have to stop thinking certain platforms from online will give this. Like Instagram can never show every side of a person’s life and why should it strive to do so? It is good to talk about the fact that people don’t share when they take a shit necessarily or when they cry.

What do you think the outcome is when people base and mold their lives on their social media profile?

Sunday: I think that some people get a lot a jobs out of it and do really well and other people might take it too seriously? It’s probably the same as people that are in any spotlight, it’s just now that spotlight is more accessible. I guess it has many outcomes. Some people I have met are the opposite of their internet personalities so I guess it could be misleading. But it could also make people take on their internet personality IRL.

It can be argued that social media breeds narcissists. Do you think that we (as a culture and generation) are becoming too self-obsessed?

Sunday: Yes…But not everybody and maybe its not that its necessarily breeding it but some people are just using it that way. Also, I don’t really think it’s fair to draw conclusions about generations and culture based on a trend on the internet that’s only been super relevant in the last maybe 5 years. Time moves really fast on the internet so who knows, maybe in a few years everyone will be a little less excited about getting likes on their selfies and our internet personas will mature a little bit.

How can we use social media and the Internet for the good of our generation?

Sunday: I was able to meet a lot of people and gain support about this show because of the internet and social media. I think that it’s huge that we can talk to people or find similar scenes in an instant. I also think it can be political because it is so accessible – instead of just listening to news that may or may not be true, real people can tell their stories and experiences.

Arvida: Keep on discussing, stop capitalism and fund journalists and artists so they won’t have to make crap art or click-hair journalism to survive. Slow internet down.

I believe social media has made it easier for artists to sell work and promote themselves without the need of galleries. How else has social media affected the art world?

Sunday: I have been able to find artists easier, I can know what’s going on or what is trending… etc. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming but I feel like the internet is a tool and we have to use it as best as we can. I also am not operating a huge gallery and am pretty young so I might be able to navigate it better and have more use for it

Arvida: I wouldn’t know because I’m not in the established ‘art world’ and have no intentions to be. Also I barely have had a life before internet.

The show also deals with and explores the connection between the Internet and sexuality… Do you think social media has given more control to girls in how their share and explore their own sexuality?

Sunday: I think a few pieces in the show deal with that, but not every one. I follow way more girls than I do guys and I think it is an easy way for women to get attention which can be good and bad- but if used for the right reasons it can be really good! I think that people that might not have power in the real world are given a chance to have a bigger voice and a lot of the time those people are women. Sexuality is something I think a lot of people struggle with coming to terms with and I think sometimes the internet can help people because there are so many people talking openly about sexuality and other issues you can always find something to relate to.

How is the Internet transforming female beauty ideas? Is it?

Sunday: It’s kind of the same as living in a super stimulating city like L.A. where there is so much going on and so many different scenes and types of people. There’s Beverly Hills beauty and then there’s not so conventional beauty. I think that the internet is giving voices to people who have different ideas of beauty and culture is responding to that. Not always in a positive way, but it can take a long time to change people’s core beliefs, unfortunately.

How did your career as an artist begin?

Arvida: Very slowly, no definite beginning. I’ve been doing things I like, such as being scared. Being scared of selling out is probably the best anxiety in the world to have, things don’t get better just because it is bigger. But I’m probably there now, at selling out. It is hard to say.

Do you think who you are as a person in the physical world gets overshadowed by your Internet (Tumblr and Instagram) persona? Or do you complement each other? Or is there even a divide there?

Arvida: I would say there is no division today. When I was younger, around 16 years old, I used to feel that my online persona and offline one didn’t match, only because people would be like “you are all extroverted online or talk about sex but you’re not at all like that offline”. Now I’ve learned people will always make assumptions.

You have recently began directing film and video, how is the process different from still photography?

Arvida: Very different! I started making things with my ex, Claire Kurylowski. We had loads of fights where i just envisioned a picture and she was like, “but where is the movement!!!” I don’t know, there is loads of time put into video, cutting, music you know. It is very different.

What was the place you found inspiration in most recently?

Arvida: My friend Liv has a band called Liphemra! If she is a place. Let’s say friendship is a place. She also launched her zine at Sunday a while ago!

Do you have any advice for young artists who are trying to follow in your footsteps?

Arvida: Don’t try to follow my footsteps. Try to do something you like and it wont matter as much if you “make it” or not ‘cuz you had fun on the way.

Photos by Camila Saldarriaga

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